"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -Aldous Huxley

You've stumbled upon the website of Jeremy Lott. (To learn more about me, go here.) I can be reached at JEREMYAL123 -- AT -- YAHOO.COM.


-- HOME --

This page is powered by Blogger. Why isn't yours?
wTuesday, February 22, 2005

DON'T THINK TOO HARD: Here an excerpt from my Books & Culture review of Malcolm Gladwell's chart topping new book Blink:

At the staggering cost of some $250 million, the U.S. armed forces hosted war games in July and August of 2002 to road-test a new theory of war. The idea, as one analyst put it, was not to crush the enemy's "war-fighting capability" but to go after his "war-making capability." Defense whiz kids had decided that since any potential foe's military is connected to its economic system, which is tied in turn to the local culture, it would be possible to understand the links between all of those systems and effectively paralyze a country by severing them.

To test this theory, the Joint Forces of Command enlisted the services of a retired marine, Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper. Van Riper was to play the part of a "rogue military commander who had broken away from his government somewhere in the Persian Gulf and was threatening to engulf the entire region in war." The U.S. army was called in to neutralize this threat before things got really bad. Van Riper's forces were named the Red Team, while the good guys were saddled with the Blue Team label.

On the first day of the game, Blue Team flooded the zone. They poured tens of thousands of troops into the region and stationed an entire aircraft carrier group "just offshore of Red Team's home country." They issued an eight-point ultimatum to the mad general (the gist of which was, roughly, surrender now, you stone-age has-been) and then started to sever the links that they believed were vital for Van Riper to conduct a war. They blew up microwave towers and destroyed fiber optic lines, leaving him without means of fast, secure communication with his troops.

And then Van Riper embarrassed them. He used motorcycle couriers and codes hidden in prayers to send and receive information. To land and launch aircraft while maintaining radio silence, Red Team used lighting systems a la World War II. Van Riper put a fleet of small boats in the Gulf to track the U.S. ships and then launched a surprise attack, bombarding the aircraft group in an "hour-long assault with a fusillade of cruise missiles."

When the attack was over, 16 ships had been shot out of the water. Malcolm Gladwell explains that if this had "been a real war instead of just an exercise, twenty thousand American servicemen and women would have been killed before their own army had even fired a shot." The secret to Van Riper's deadly success, says Gladwell, is that he issued orders and then trusted the judgment of his troops to carry them out or modify as needed. It was a triumph that many economists would admireā€”of the loosely coordinated choices of thousands of individuals over planned and programmed design of the world's most sophisticated war machine. [more]

posted by Jeremy at 11:34 PM